Women in Puerto Rico Are Embracing Their Natural Curls After Hurricane Maria

As humans, we tend to take a lot of things for granted—like having power

Photo: Instagram/lauraom

Photo: Instagram/lauraom

As humans, we tend to take a lot of things for granted—like having power. But for people living in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, having power is a privilege. In fact, having power to use hair styling tools like a blow dryer or a flat iron isn’t even possible for many women, which is why some of them are forgoing their hot tools all together. Instead of straightening their rizos, many of these chicas are now going natural.

No power means not being able to give yourself a sleek straight blowout and this is a big deal in a Latin American country like Puerto Rico, where straight hair is still perceived as the most beautiful. But the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria has left a lot of the island with lack of resources, such as electricity. Folks are being forced to adapt—curly haired chicas included.

Laura Om owns OM studio, a salon in Puerto Rico on Calle Loiza in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She specializes in styling naturally, curly hair and has gotten quite a bit of business since the hurricane. The lack of power made it impossible for a lot of Puerto Rican women to blow dry their hair straight and it’s inspired many of them to embrace their natural curls.

A lot of people decided, I’m not gonna deal with that anymore,” Om told NPR. In some ways, this has been a huge transformation for a lot of these women and not just on a physical level. Om shares that some of her clients never even knew what their natural texture looked like before stepping into her salon. This is a very common experience for a lot of Latinas who don’t have naturally straight hair and grew up in a culture where they were told their texture was “pelo malo.”

Om explains how the culture tells women from a very young age that “if you don’t have straight hair, you’re not well put together.” If one good thing has come out of this storm, it’s that it’s changing the way the island and the culture perceives curly hair and beauty.

“I’m very happy that I can help young girls love themselves the way they are and it’s not always easy,” Om says. “A lot of times it’s harder to wear your hair natural but we help them get there. And we are mixed so we have to embrace that. We have to be happy with that.”

The natural hair movement has really come a long way—especially in the states. But it’s even more exciting to see it happening in Latin America, where the message of embracing curls has taken a little longer to sink it. Curly hair advocates like Om and Carolina Contreras of “Miss Rizos” have really helped move this movement forward.

Contreras started the first hair salon dedicated specifically to naturally curly hair in Dominican Republic and has become a well-known natural hair advocate within the Latinx community. The natural hair movement especially for Latinas, black women, and other women of color is especially important because of the way we are brought up. If you grow up in a culture—in a society—that tells you you’re not beautiful enough the way that you naturally are and that you have to change that in order to be perceived as beautiful in society—that can do a number on your self-esteem. It’s great to see how things have changed and how much we have progressed when it comes to this. After all, curls are gorgeous. It’s time we all started believing that!

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